Dec 12

The Russian Connection: Desperation

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian meddling in the 2016 election appears to be concentrating when Donald Trump knew the National Security advisor Michael Flynn had lied.

Focus on Flynn, Trump timeline suggests obstruction is on Mueller’s mind

Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn’s firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.

Some of those interviewed by Mueller’s team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical in federal investigators’ attempts to piece together a timeline of those 18 days. [..]

The obstruction of justice question could hinge on when Trump knew about the content of Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, which were at the crux of Yates’s warning, and when the president learned Flynn had lied about those conversations to the FBI, according to two people familiar with the Mueller probe. [..]

Yates has testified to Congress that she informed McGahn on Jan. 26 that Flynn had not been truthful in statements to senior members of the Trump team, including Vice President Mike Pence, when he said he did not discuss U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Yates said Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by the Russians because he had lied about the contents of a phone call with Kislyak. [..]

Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Yates’ warning, according to two people familiar with the probe. He appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said.

If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and his legal team has disputed any notion of the president obstructing justice.

Trump communications director Hope Hicks, who has bben with the campaign since the beginning and is close to Trump, was questioned for two days by Mueller’s team of investigators.

This morning Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is calling for Mueller’s dismissal and the appointment of a new prosecutor due to conflicts of interest at the Justice Department.

He cited a Fox News report that said senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr was demoted last week amid an investigation that he met with the founder of Fusion GPS, an intelligence firm that was collecting anti-Trump opposition research, after the 2016 election.

During the presidential campaign, according to Fox News, Ohr also met with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence operative who authored a dossier that documented Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. It was reported that Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the election. [..]

Sekulow’s comments also come on the heels of new reports that found a top FBI agent who was part of the Russia probe was reassigned over the summer for potentially sharing personal texts that were critical of Trump.

The agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from Mueller’s team when the Justice Department inspector general’s office found the potentially disparaging texts he had sent to a colleague with whom he had been having an affair. The matter is now an ongoing investigation by the inspector general’s office, the FBI said.

Mueller is a life long Republican who was appointed to head the FBI by President George W. Bush and reappointed by Pres. Barack Obama. Everyone call Mueller a “straight arrow’ and has an impeccable reputation. Calling for him to be replaced is a sign that the White House is getting desperate and is very worried that Mueller is building a solid case for obstruction of justice. If he can prove that Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI about his meeting with Kysliak and then asked the FBI to overlook the case, Trump could be indicted and impeached.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow looks at the reoporting by NBC News and what it means for the White House and Vice President Mike Pence.